This article appeared on The Female Economist and is republished here with permission.
There’s no denying the fears that we all face right now—from changes in our personal lives to the economic downturn and the healthcare crisis. Data shows that 22 million Americans have now filed for unemployment and the virus has claimed the lives of thousands across the nation. While it’s hard to fathom the scale at which COVID-19 has impacted us, it is also worth noting that women face the brunt of this fallout. The gender inequality crisis that exists right now is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Women on the Frontline
The novel coronavirus has had a devastating impact on the healthcare sector where situational factors have caused women to face greater consequences. Nearly 76 percent of the healthcare force is female. Doctors, nurses, health aides, and other members on the frontlines who are under the age of 45 are mostly female. These healthcare heroes work tirelessly to help save lives while risking their own.
Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, says that the global crisis brings to light the gender inequalities that exist in our society. We need to use this time to work together and fix these structural issues.
More Time Spent on Childcare
An added issue that many parents face is more time spent on childcare. With schools and daycares closed infinitely, the responsibility of caring for the kids has now shifted solely to the parents. Statistics show that 44 percent of married couples with children are dual earners and need to split their time spent on childcare.
This is where the inequality persists as data shows that women take on 60 percent of childcare duty on average. While men spend 7.2 hours of childcare per week, women do 10.3 hours. If schools continue to remain closed for the next couple of months, mothers are likely to bear the greater responsibility of childcare.
Equal Work, Unequal Pay
In addition to facing greater economic and societal risks as a result of COVID-19, women are also paid less than men. Research conducted by PayScale in 2020 showed that women make only $0.81 for every dollar men make. This is just a 2 percent raise from the prior year. The pay gap also fluctuates based on the type of work. In the medical field, female family doctors make $0.94 on the dollar when compared to their male counterparts in the same position. However, female anesthesiologists make only 83 cents on the dollar.
The repercussions are also greater for women when they leave the workforce. Studies show that women who reapply for jobs after a break in employment are offered salaries that are approximately 7 percent lower than those offered to men. Women are also more likely to take time off or resign to take care of children of elderly family members. While many employers are facing trying times, it is important not to lose sight of the gender inequalities that exist in the workplace and strive to put an end to unconscious biases that affect women.
It goes without saying that women spearhead many aspects of society and the coronavirus has only amplified the importance of women on the frontlines. As we continue to fight this pandemic, let’s use this time as an opportunity to break gender biases and work towards equality for all!
By Divya Premkumar